In this post you’ll learn:
- The first steps to build a medicine cabinet
For a few years now I’ve been itching to build a medicine cabinet. I’m not really sure why. I guess I never liked the idea of paying a couple hundred bucks for a small painted box. They’re pretty simple after all. I had thought about building one for my first house, but I never got around to it. So when I noticed my sister and her husband were making some upgrades around their house I offered to build them one, especially since they had already ripped their old one out. They have a 1950’s bathroom with most of the original features and it’s in pretty good condition. When I was over for the holidays they were using the space where the old medicine cabinet had been.
For this project, I pitched a few different designs to them. They settled on a variation of a Restoration Hardware cabinet, more specifically, the Cartwright model. We’re going to keep the overall scale and hardware, but skip the crown molding. It’ll be a little more plain, but should blend in better with the existing decor.
(via Restoration Hardware)
This is how this project is going to work. In this post we’re going to discuss the design, dimensioning, material and some of the other critical elements. Then in our next medicine cabinet post, we’ll show a video on how to actually build the cabinet. I would like to keep this series down to two or three posts at most. If you’d like to read a more in-depth cabinet building series, you can check out our work on the TV stand we did a while ago.
Allright? Ready to get started? Let’s build a medicine cabinet!
Let’s start with the existing space. There’s obviously a hole in the wall. The medicine cabinet we’re going to build will recess into that hole. A recessed cabinet will be a big space saver and they won’t need to patch the walls. All I need to get started dimensioning the cabinet now are the dimensions of the hole in the wall. I marked up the photo of the room and emailed it to my sister for her to take some measurements.
Here’s what I emailed her:
I asked her to provide me a dimension for each one of those letters. For the opening width and height, which are letters A and B, I asked her to take measurements at three locations: the left, right and middle (or top, middle and bottom). I want the smallest of those three dimensions. If I asked her for just the width and it turns out that the hole is slightly wider at the top than the bottom, then I could end up building the cabinet too large. I want to make sure it will fit so we’ll build to the smallest width and the smallest height.
Since the wall is plaster and has some left over markings from the previous cabinet, I’d like the new cabinet to hide those markings. So by asking for dimensions E and F, I can figure out how big the frame needs to be to cover that stuff. The measurement at point D is the distance to the top of the wall tile. I want to make sure the cabinet doesn’t touch it.
My sister took all those measurements and emailed them back to me.
At this point, I can start figuring out what the design will look like, how it will be built and how big each piece should be. If you’re comfortable drawing this out on paper, you could use that approach. Personally, I’m a big fan of SketchUp, so I prefer to draw my cabinets in that program. While it’s fairly easy to use, it also has the added advantage of allowing me to show you nice rendered images of the design.
I started the drawing by sketching out a plain wall with a hole in it. Then I gave the wall some thickness. With that part out of the way, I drew a basic four sided box, which will be the insides of the medicine cabinet.
You can see I left some space around all four sides of the box; about a 1/4″. The depth of the box is also 1/4″ shorter than the depth of the hole. Too small is probably OK. Too big is going to be a problem. You can see from the illustration that the box bottom and top will be assembled together using grooves in the box sides. I didn’t draw a back piece, but you can just figure out its dimensions from these four pieces. SketchUp has a tape measure tool, so after I had all four pieces drawn I could measure the dimensions of each one and write them down.
After the box parts were drawn and dimensioned, I turned my attention to the face frame. The face frame will be attached to the box and will cover the open area around the box and also part of the wall. Here’s what that frame looks like attached to the box.
The frame consists of a top and bottom rail board and two stile (aka side) boards. The face frame will be assembled using pocket screws and it’ll be probably be attached to the box using pocket screws as well. Pretty straight forward construction.
Now onto the door. The door will be inset into the frame of the door, just like in the Restoration Hardware design. Inset screams custom and it’s pretty much the only doors I like to build!! They’re also pretty easy to make. I’m going to draw the doors with a 1/8″ gap all the way around, just for the sake of the image, but in reality, I’ll make them the same size as the opening and then gently trim them down to their final size.
For the sake of clarity, I’ve dressed up the SketchUp drawing with a tile lip and some pink walls to match the photo. I didn’t draw any hardware or a beveled mirror, although I’m sure you could do that if you wanted to.
With the door drawn, I’ll write down the dimensions. I’ll need to order a mirror and glass shelves as well, but I’ll get more into that in the next video post. It’s also important to think about what sort of hinges or latch hardware will be required and to order it all in advance. The box material will be birch plywood and the frame and door will be made from poplar. While there are a lot of material options to choose from, I happen to have a lot of poplar and birch plywood laying around my shop. Should be able to build most of it with scrap wood!
That’s it for this post. Hopefully you have a solid understanding of how I sized the cabinet and where we’re going from here.
Thanks and stay tuned.
Feel free to ask any questions in the comments and please share this post if you enjoyed it.
If you ask me what I enjoy the ABSOLUTE MOST about blogging, my answer is always helping others with their home projects. Hands down the best part of this gig. I love getting comments or emails from readers expressing their gratitude for something they found on our site. Really makes my day. Just last week, one of our newsletter subscribers emailed me some pictures of her custom bathroom vanities she built from scratch. She told me that she was able to complete the task after reading our TV stand series. I was so impressed with her work that we’re featuring her vanities as our 4th installment of Your Home from Scratch.
You guys. Wait to you see these cabinets.
Andrea’s Custom Vanity
1. Your vanities are beautiful. Why did you decide to build them instead of buying them?
Thanks for inviting me to share in your blog! I decided to try to build these vanities after pricing ones that I really loved and found them over-the-top expensive for the value and quality of construction. For the double sink vanity prices were $1000 +, the single vanity $700+ – add on tax and shipping and that was the deal breaker. Also, I wanted my mirrors and vanities to match.
2. How much money do you think you saved by building them yourself?
Assuming I bought the two vanities mentioned above at $1800, minus my supplies $300 (?), I guess I saved about $1500.
It took me 1 month of on-and-off work while carpenters did complicated bath renovation including moving walls, plumbing and electric. My only other carpentry experience comes from building a step back cupboard a few years ago. I had a picture from an antique catalog, so I started by drawing a picture on the wall where I wanted it to be to get the starting dimensions and then drew up plans on graph paper. Oh, I am also building my 2nd canoe.
4. Give us a quick overview of how you built them. Did you use roughly the same build method as our TV stand? What material?
I built the first single vanity using your plans for the entertainment cabinet. I figured out the width dimensions first and built the face frame. I did want the cabinet to sit on Shaker legs to appear as a piece of furniture, so I extended the right and left vertical face frame pieces to extend about 3″ below the lower horizontal piece. I used poplar wood as you suggested, along with cabinet grade birch veneer plywood for sides, base and shelves. For the second, larger double sink vanity, I again determined the width first. I knew I wanted 3 doors so I evenly spaced them and repeated the same steps as the first vanity.
5. What sort of finish product did you use (Latex paint, acrylic, lacquer)?
As far as the finish, I again used your advice of applying 2 coats of latex primer and 2 coats of latex paint. I got the most perfect finish using a velour covered, small roller from Sherwin Williams. The finish is so perfect that it looks factory applied. I was very pleased with this roller finish. I did lightly sand between coats. Beautiful.
6. What was the hardest part of the project?
The hardest part of the project was becoming familiar and comfortable with using the radial arm saw, skill saw, table saw and biscuit jointer (affiliate) ( I don’t have a router set-up). I am a real safety freak, so I took this part very seriously. I am really alone on all these projects, so your quick response to my hardware questions, etc. was a big confidence builder – like, I had a big brother that was just a email away!
7. What are you planning on building next?
I am planning on building a second mirror/cabinet for above the first single vanity. I have gained so much satisfaction from this project that I know I can do just about anything just taking it one step at a time. Thanks again, John.
Thanks to Andrea for sharing this incredible home improvement project. If you have a home improvement project that you’d like to share with our readers, shoot me an email: John at Our Home from Scratch dot com.
Hey everybody! We’re back. Hope you all had a happy holiday. Nothing beats 10 days off from work. We had a relaxing and enjoyable break, although I wouldn’t complain if I had another 10 days off! I did manage to catch bronchitis right after Christmas and was OOC for a few days last week. Thank goodness for Z-Packs. I was hoping to get loads of stuff around the house done over the holiday, but that didn’t happen. We started a few things here and there that we’ll bring you up to speed on. First though, I thought we’d share with you our Blog To-Do list for 2013.
This is a list of projects Lisa and I would really, really like to get done this year. I’m not going to hold my breath for a few of them, but we’ll see. Can’t hurt to list them and see what happens.
I’ll run through these real quick…
1. You’re going to see a tour of our Master Bedroom real soon. Prepare to be underwhelmed at how little we’ve done in here. We’re taking a first step and working on our attached sitting room. We’re buying a couch, throwing a flat screen on the wall and maybe making some built-ins or buying a shelf. This is the first series of posts we have for you in 2013.
2. Custom WordPress Theme… This one is killing me. I know how to build it, I think. We still have yet to put ideas to paper and create one. I’m hoping to knock this out ASAP. Stay tuned.
3. See #1. We need to do something with these spaces. Badly.
4. It’s either build a deck or finish the basement. We’re leaning towards the deck since it makes having summer visitors more enjoyable, but having a finished basement would be sweet. I could finish a deck in a few weekends and it’s fairly inexpensive. A basement finish would be a summer long affair and would be a LOT of material $$.
5. The garage.. ehhhh. We need shelves and storage. Can you get a house keeper that just cleans garages? This space continues to be the Bane to my Batman.
6. Ah the office. Our catch all that we’ve been meaning to get to. I would love to work on this before the spring. We’re going to rip out the carpet, install hardwood and make some built-in custom cabinets and a desk. We thought we’d get to this one last year. Didn’t happen. Hoping for this year.
7. Not a big project. I have this gentleman’s chest. It’s got a lot of stuff in it. It needs organization.. It’s not very functional… you’ll see.
8. Lisa has tasked me with improving our pantry. We have wire mesh shelves and we could probably do something a little more clever. Apparently she doesn’t like reaching into the closet for chips. She wants the chips to come to her.
9. Probably. Won’t. Happen. I want to start a compost bin or pit or pile or whatever you call it. I want to be able to throw banana peels outside. I’d really like to grow my own bell peppers and tomatoes. A couple chickens would be nice too, although I suspect they are against the community rules.
10. Needs some updating. Some plants are dying and some are thriving. Overall, the flower bed needs to be reshaped to make it easier to maintain.
I’m sure some of these will drop off and I can tell you we have a few more that we’re playing close to our vest. You’ll just have to stick around and see what happens.
What’s on your to-do list for 2013?
Keeping with our bathroom theme… Unless you routinely scrub your tub or shower, you’re bound to get a good amount of black moldy build-up in those tough to clean areas. We’ve all seen it. Sorry if I’m starting to sounding like a commercial. It happens. It comes from years of trying to sell my ideas to Lisa. So, our master bathroom shower has seen some better days. Surprisingly, we actually DO clean it often enough that we shouldn’t have any issues with black staining mold or hard water stains, but nonetheless we do. Here’s how I was able to get our shower mold free and looking new.
How to Clean Black Shower Mold Permanently
First, I always start with a cleaning product that contains bleach. We typically use Tilex. The chemical odor can be pretty overwhelming, so whenever I use it, I try to keep the windows open to let some fresh air in and wear a mask I aggressively work the cleaner into the problems areas with a stiff bristle brush. If you still have some black mold after this step, then you’ll need to remove and replace the caulk.
Here’s what our shower looked like after the best cleaning it’s ever gotten.
Still pretty gross. To remove the moldy caulk, I used a box cutter with a sharp blade and a flat bladed box cutter, which is like a window scraper, to score it. Once all the caulk was scored, you can usually peel it out. Be sure to get all of the caulk out of the joints. Some of the more stubborn caulk may harden to the point that it’s like grout. The hardened stuff may need some more persuasion. I used a flat head screw driver. You do need to be careful that you don’t damage your tile or shower basin. Also, wear safety glasses. Proceed with caution and at your own risk.
Once all the moldy caulk was scraped out, it looked better.
With all the caulk removed, it’s time to prep for the new caulk. Be sure to clean up the area where the caulk was previously. It will also need to be nice and dry in order for any caulk to adhere well.
Now, if this were a latex based painter’s caulk, I’d dive right in. The latex caulks are pretty easy to work with and are fairly forgiving. However, your shower and bathroom applications require a silicone based caulk. Silicone caulk is notoriously difficult. So, to make it easier on ourselves, we’re going to use some painter’s tape to mask off the area. I leave a good 1/4″ gap in the area where the caulk will be applied.
Once the tape is in place, we’re set. Now, you can buy high quality silicone caulks that are specifically designed for a shower or bathroom application, as opposed to a window or door for example. The caulk we used for this repair guarantees several years free of mold. Hopefully, with normal cleanings, we won’t need to repeat this procedure.
The caulk can be applied in a thin bead and can then be smeared with your finger.
While smearing, I try to get a seamless look. Pull your finger smoothly across the caulk line and don’t stop until you get to a corner. Once you’ve smoothed all the caulk, remove the tape. Very gently, re-smooth out the caulk lines again. You’re done. Let it dry according to the caulk manufacturer’s directions. You usually need to wait around 8 hours after you apply the caulk until you can shower.
Now, my assumption is the builder didn’t use a high quality caulk the first time around. We’re going to be more vigilant this time and hopefully can clean the shower with a less caustic cleaner, but I’m hoping I won’t need to repeat this for a long, long time. And if you do spot some small black mold spots in your caulk, don’t fret. Try letting the Tilex cleaner soak for a little while (few minutes) before you plan on re-doing it.
The hardest part of this whole process is removing the old caulk. Plan on this whole fix taking at least a couple of hours. It will be time well spent.
Anyone else dealing with some crappy caulk? I wrote an entire post about caulk and didn’t make one juvenile joke. #itskillingme
Hey everybody! Hope all of our American friends safely and joyfully slept off their turkey induced comas. Lisa and I had a great holiday with our family. Thursday we drove up to Northeast PA and had dinner at my mom’s house. Driving for two hours back home after eating turkey can be dangerous, but luckily we made it back safe and sound. Friday was shopping and turkey round two with Lisa’s family.
A couple weeks ago, we finally got around to painting our upstairs hall bathroom. It’s been plain builder grade white since we moved in over two years ago. Since its our hall bath upstairs, it’s reserved for our daughter and the occasional overnight guests.
Here’s a shot of the bathroom before we moved in.
Actually, a while ago, we showed the bathroom as a sneak peak in our 5 Tips for New Home Builders. When we built, we opted to skip the large builder grade mirror and instead asked the builder not to install anything at all. They were totally fine with that idea. After all, it was less work for them. We installed a couple Ikea Kolja mirrors instead for a more personalized look.
You can see that greenish shower curtain we added after we moved in. In keeping with that scheme, we picked Sherwin Williams Tidewater for the wall color. Lisa originally wanted a neutral bathroom, but once she found that shower curtain a few years ago she changed her mind.
The light bulbs in these shots distort the look of the room a little bit. We had CFLs in the vanity light, but switched to a clear filament bulbs for most of the after pictures. It’s a much whiter light.
We’re very happy with the color! Even though the room is still builder grade, the paint plays well with the white vanity and tile. If we never do another upgrade in this room, I’ll be fine with it. I’ve been asking Lisa to think of some crafts or artwork to dress the room up (100% her department). We do need to add a little more character me thinks.
How was your Thanksgiving break? Get any projects done?
Over the weekend I did a little project that has been on my mind for over two years! When I knew we were moving I tried by hardest NOT to buy a lot of decorating items before we moved because I didn’t want extra boxes to move from one house to the other.
One purchase I did make was this bathroom framed artwork from HomeGoods. If you have ever shopped at HomeGoods, or Marshalls, or TJMaxx, then you know if you see something you like you have to purchase it then because it won’t be there next week!
The photo makes the accent colors look more blue than in real life. I have a lot of jade accented throughout the house and this artwork matches great.
I haven’t done much with the powder room where this is hanging. We still have white walls but I did buy matching handtowels. This frame is hanging over the toilet. You all know what a toilet looks like, so I opted to crop it out.
So onto how I painted this guy…
I removed the picture from the wall and noticed that there was brown paper covering the back. I was planning on taping the framed picture as is and painting it, but John convinced me to take the frame apart. I used a box cutter to remove the paper and a flathead screwdriver to remove the staples. (Bonus: made in the USA! woohoo)
I cut a trashbag to cover my table where I was painting and used some tiles to keep the frame elevated while I painted.
The two cans you see in the picture? They are the remaining primer and paint from when my mom repainted furniture for our living room – thanks, Mom!
I put on three coats of the primer (not knowing it was the primer) and one coat of paint. I could tell we had used the primer as paint when John used the real paint as touch-up and it was much glossier than the rest of the frame.
After the paint was completely dried, I used white caulk to seal up the back.
I let that dry overnight, and hung up the frame in the morning.
I am really so happy that I finally got around to painting this frame! I can’t wait to paint the wall so the picture really stands out.
What do you think? Do you ever buy something knowing your going to change it up?
While looking through our old photos from our first home, I stumbled upon these pictures of our old bathroom before the big renovation. For the record, Lisa would like me to stress that this was MY bathroom and not OUR bathroom since it was rehabbed before we got married and she moved in.
The before shots:
To say the bathroom was in dire straits before the remodel is an understatement. The tiles were regularly falling off the shower wall. The tub was only 48″ long, much shorter compared to today’s standard 60″ tubs. Not like that mattered though, no one ever laid down in this thing, not while I owned it anyway. You can clearly see there was an attempt to replace some of the tiles around the tub spout, but it was done poorly at best. The plaster was chipping off the walls and falling into the tub. I’m pretty sure the CDC would’ve condemned this “room” if they had caught wind of it.
If you look closely, you can see some plumber’s tape wrapped around the p-trap. Yes, there is such a thing as plumber’s tape. That plumber’s tape essentially became the p-trap after the actual pipe rotted through. These pictures were taken the day of my “Demolition Party” to capture the timeless nastiness that was my bathroom. A few months before the demolition, I had decided to stop cleaning it. What was the point? If anything, maybe all the mold and rot would ease the demo.
The new bathroom was much nicer.
In addition to gutting the entire bathroom, I expanded the room length by one foot into the adjacent bedroom. Although that third bedroom I borrowed space from was small to begin with, I don’t think I could’ve sold the house with such an undersized bathroom. The extra foot really helped. I was able to install a full sized tub with a subway tiled surround. The window was replaced with glass tile block. The toilet is a top of the line American Standard Champion model.
The bathroom was still on the small size, but that’s just what you get with homes of that age in that area of Philadelphia. Sure beats the Green Monster.
Hey! Thanks for stopping by. We're Lisa and John and this is our DIY and Home Improvement blog. Feel free to browse our DIY project gallery or our latest posts. You can read more here.
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